Change is Inevitable

Ali Neill
3 min readApr 27, 2020

What was life before those pillar people? It’s not that you don’t have memories from before them, but you don’t actually know who you were.

My sister said that to me the other day, or words to that effect, referring to a boyfriend she dated when she was 19. Of course I agree. Who was I before Peter? And Louis? And Damien? Sure, I only mentioned exes but I could’ve said Alex, or Camille, or Pierre (friends who I no longer talk to, but think of often).

People aside, I’ve had the same thought about books(and movies to a lesser extent). How can you remember what is it to be a person who doesn’t know the stories that changed you? It’s the age old problem: is it better to be a happy fool or a miserable wiseman? No one can discover wisdom and go back to ignorance. Much like innocence, you get it once and then it’s gone.

What if I’d read “Of Human Bondage” earlier? Or later? What if I hadn’t read “Beneath the Wheel”? How could I possibly be the same person? I don’t have to discuss the books, or analyse them… I don’t even have to think about them for them to have a profound impact on who I am.

What does this have to do with past lovers and finished friendships? Only that we are forever changed by them and sometimes wish we hadn’t ever known them but of course, that it isn’t a genuine wish since we wouldn’t be who we are.

I remember the Russian woman who let us help set up her shop in the morning while we waited for the bus. We would bring in her bread, and she would give us Russian caramels.

What about the Indian family who owned the convinience store? The youngest brother would tease us and the girls would give us sweets. What on earth a 20-something-year Indian girl and 10-year-old twins could have to say to one another, I don’t know but we could spend hours there. Or in the video store. Or the fishshop. My sister even wrote a song for Simon from the video store, thinking he had died in a tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

I remember Phantom zone: the comic book and figurine store, which we would hang around after school. One of the shop girls gave us a cool technique to improve our drawings skills, and Andrew (the shop guy) gave us 30 dollar comic books for our birthday (I don’t even know how old we were… and it wasn’t our real birthday anyway).

We worked at McDonalds, and there were so many memorable managers: Kirby, Suhnil, Jesse, Ahi, George, Stephen(?) etc. Some funny, others dodgy; some strict, other lenient. Snippets of quirky customers (one man asked: “do you accept Victorian currency?”… in Sydney…; another kissed me on the last day of the year; or there was the strange man who offered me a “present” at the end of his meal: a box, with decorations, and his finished apple pie box inside) and distressing situations (drugged up adolescents physically attacking a manager, a man breaking things in the women’s bathroom, pickles smeared on the dining room wall, etc.).

Earlier still, there was Gary on the school bus, who we would talk to on the way to school and the way back, until the school hired someone to supervise the children on the bus…

Everything before France is in a big box in my mind. H***, even a big chunck of France is in that box too. More recent memories aren’t easier to remember. Stuff just happened and it’s there — some of it — a bundle of scenes and people, in that box, which made me.